Regional conference on “The constitutional protection of property rights” in Serbia

From 11 to 13 October 2016, the regional conference on “The constitutional protection of property rights” was held in Vdrnik, Serbia. Representatives from the Constitutional Courts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro also attended the conference.

The regional constitutional conference is part of the continuing, traditional and successful collaboration with the Serbian Constitutional Court. In her welcoming speech, the President of the Constitutional Court of Serbia, Vesna Ilić Prelić, was full of praise for this friendly cooperation, which has become more than just a partnership.

All the former Yugoslavian states have been through and are still going through the same legal transformation processes. The objective of the conference was therefore to encourage the exchange of experiences between the constitutional courts and to discuss how to deal with the constitutional right to property, especially in times of national and social upheaval. This applies in particular to the transition from socialism to a market economy.

The following presented country reports from their own constitutional courts:

  • Predrag Ćetković, Constitutional Judge, Serbia,
  • Dr. sc. Mato Arlović, Constitutional Judge, Croatia,
  • Hamdija Šarkinović, Constitutional Judge, Montenegro,
  • Mato Tadić, Constitutional Judge, Bosnia and Herzegovina and
  • Aleksandra Martinović, President of the Constitutional Court, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Representing Germany at the conference, Prof. Dr. Udo Steiner, a former judge at the German Federal Constitutional Court from the University of Regensburg, talked to participants about German experiences after reunification and the related legal challenges, as well as the relationship between the German Federal Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights.

The event provided additional proof of the importance of sharing and exchanging experiences and dialogue when it comes to the successful legal transformation of the former Yugoslavian states.

Conference on “The role of judges and freedom of speech” in Belgrade

A conference on “The role of judges and freedom of speech” was held on 27 September 2016 in Belgrade. The conference was organised jointly by the Judges’ Association of Serbia, the German Association of Judges and the IRZ. The event enabled the exchange of experiences across national borders between judges from Montenegro, as well as from Germany and Serbia.

In his opening speech, German ambassador Axel Dittmann pointed out the importance of the justice system and of an independent judiciary for preparing Serbia’s entry to the EU.

The President of the Judges’ Association of Serbia, Dragana Boljevic, also spoke at the well-attended conference. Other speakers were Andrea Titz, a judge at the higher regional court of Munich, and Elisabeth Kreth, a judge at the finance court of Hamburg, both of whom are members of the German Association of Judges. During the intense discussions following the presentations, issues concerning the ability of judges to give their opinions in public were discussed, as well as the media coverage of how they perform their duties and of the justice system as a whole.

One of the participating judges said that Germany and Serbia are like living in “two different worlds” For example, Serbian judges are not allowed to belong to political parties. Others also reported critical and even slanderous media reports on judges, which went as far as accusations of the judges concerned being on defendants’ payrolls, which would be completely unthinkable in this form in Germany.

It is precisely these contrasting situations, however, that show that gearing legal regulations and even standard practices towards the German model could make perfect sense for Serbia and other states in the region in order to resolve existing irregularities.

Since journalists also took part in this event, it was an occasion for direct discussions to take place between representatives of the justice system and the media, which is otherwise rare in the region.

Belgrade law students on their way to Europe

For the third time now, the Masters course on European Integration of the Law Faculty of the University of Belgrade and the IRZ organised a study visit to Strasbourg, Luxembourg, Karlsruhe and Brussels from 4 to 7 July 2016. The 15 participating students were accompanied by two lecturers and completed an extensive visitor programme of the following institutions:

  • Council of Europe,
  • German Federal Constitutional Court,
  • European Court of Justice,
  • European Commission and
  • European Parliament.

They had many opportunities for direct personal talks, e.g. with the Serbian Judge at the ECtHR Branko Lubarda and the Head of the Serbian Mission to the EU, Ambassador Duško Lopandic. Moreover, the attendance at a court hearing at the Strasbourg Court was part of the programme.

Many aspects, which the students had already known in theory from their lectures, now gained an illuminating practical dimension. The insights they gained will not only motivate the students to study the particular subjects in more detail, but will also considerably help them understand the subject matter.